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June 27, 2005

Mother mother

There goes the doomsayers, with a double dose of feminist backlash. Infertility is a ticking time bomb, reports the BBC. This mongering only provoked a roll of the eyes in my house, when we heard it on the radio last week. Others are more susceptible to the mania. Writer Rebecca Seal, 23, goes through a checklist of horrible possibilities- woo hoo! she drinks waaay too much so that might be bad, the may-be-lurking menace of chlamydia, maybe her boyfriend has a low sperm count. Seal’s article is not terribly passionate, and you get the feeling that she wasn’t that bothered about her fertility until this story was assigned to her on the basis of her demographic. She talks to others, and comes up with offensively drippy quote such as, “If I got pregnant by accident now, even though it’s really not the right time emotionally or financially, I don’t know if I could have an abortion. I couldn’t deal with the idea that I might discover in 10 years that I had thrown away my only chance of having children.” And, “What if I met someone who wanted children and I couldn’t give them what they want?” So, women must start having children earlier. India Knight supports this, proposing we start taking the shame out of young motherhood. And Danielle Crittenden certainly agrees in her book which told us how we should be unhappy with our mother’s feminism. I, however, do not.

It is shaming to be a young mother, as the good news is usually met with pity rather than congratulations. I think this does not completely have to do with youth however, but rather the stigma that remains attached to pregnancies that occur outside of marriage. It is disgusting the way that abortion continues to be deemed supreme evil, and then women who choose not to have them are judged as society’s downfallers. Unwanted pregnancy is mortifying. It shouldn’t be this way. However I don’t think the answer is to trumpet babies in one’s early twenties. Perhaps our bodies are made for this, but society certainly isn’t. Knight writes of the smart mommy who has her baby in her early twenties and re-enters the workforce at 30. How easy will it be for her to slip right back in there? Who will support her in the meantime? Any partner of hers similarly aged who makes enough money to do so will certainly not have the free time to be an adequate parent.

Reports like this come along every once in a while to undermine the progress of feminism. In Japan, where feminism is barely breathing, this sort of thing creeps up near-daily. Japanese citizens bemoan the dwindling birthrate, and the culprits of course are the women who are putting off marriage and motherhood to pursue careers. This is happening in the UK too, as primary schools close because there aren’t enough children. These end-of-society-as-we-know-it scenarios are always women’s doing. There is never much response as to what men can do to counter such trends. There is never a mention that on a planet as over-populated as ours, fretting about your country’s (or race’s in some cases) falling birth rate is petty self indulgence.

I spent two years working for Social Services in Fostering and Adoption and came away with amazing lessons. First, that there are more children in need of families out there than could ever be housed. And second, that infertility is not the end of the world. I learned about families that had accepted their situation, whose relationship was strong enough to be sustained in a family of two, and who did great things- first just a couple with a bit more freedom for adventure, and then by accepting other people’s children to raise as their own, with all the challenges and rewards that will bring.

The idea that parenthood is entitled, and an essential part of family life is harmful. That women must sacrifice other accomplishments in favour of it is worse. There is certainly no perfect time to have a baby, but babies for babies’ sake in one’s early twenties is idiotic.

One thought on “Mother mother”

  1. Jennie says:

    Over-population is often deemed to be the ultimate threat to our world, which of course would be the fault of women, after all it is us who carry all the mouths to feed. This analysis is simplistic and misogynistic as it ignores all the other root causes (for example militarization). To simply blame everything on too many babies (or too few) makes it easy to ignore other problems.

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